Our Trusting Nature

Why don’t we stop putting our trust in people who are known to lie?

This morning I read an extraordinary article on the BBC website entitled Cryptoqueen: How this woman scammed the world, then vanished.( https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-50435014 )  It told the remarkable story of a glamorous, cosmopolitan and articulate lady who persuaded thousands of people around the world to invest in One Coin, a cryptocurrency that she invented and claimed would out-perform the apparently very successful BitCoin.

Ruja Ignatova, for that was her name, took advantage of the fact that many people are easily lured by the prospect of getting rich quickly and that few of them understand the complex mechanics of cryptocurrency trading systems and the safeguards that assure their smooth operation. Her attractive appearance, combined with her oratory, helped her to draw big crowds at special events. This was sufficient to induce widespread trust in her to the extent that initial investors went on to persuade many of their friends to follow their example and buy into One Coin. The day that she disappeared, they found that they had been duped and would never see their savings again.

This made me think that it comes naturally for us to trust each other and that reciprocal trust is fundamental to the smooth working of the societies in which we live. Trust not only binds together relationships between individuals but is also fundamental to the effective working of the institutions and services on which our daily lives depend and to our confidence in their performance. Unless we are of a sceptical or suspicious nature, we automatically treat other people. even if we don’t know them, as being trustworthy because this is – or perhaps I should say ‘was’ – a behavioural norm.

Most of us were brought up to tell the truth and expect others to do the same. We have grown up with an innate tendency to trust in people who work in institutions that command our confidence, whether doctors, priests, policemen, judges or members of parliament. It is painful and often saddening when we find our trust betrayed.

The most successful fraudsters. like Ruja, manage to remain ‘above suspicion’ for many years before, if ever, being found out. When we learn of their misdeeds our initial reaction is often one of shock and incredulity. If we have been directly affected by the fraudulent behaviour of others, we may even perversely admire their ingenuity and end up blaming ourselves for our naivety rather than them for their deceit! We may even give them another chance!

What is most worrying is that untrustworthiness has become so widespread that it is no longer being automatically condemned: falling standards of integrity seem to be gaining tacit acceptance. This is particularly so in relation to politicians, where there appears to be a growing, but possibly erroneous, public perception that they are all dishonest and that therefore nothing can be done to prevent it.

If we vote for candidates in the upcoming election (however honest they themselves may be) who are members of parties led  by people who have left a trail of broken promises and are recognised as habitual liars, we are increasing the chances that we end up with a prime minister who, to put it mildly, is economical with the truth. Perhaps more seriously, we become complicit in inducing a further decline  in the standards of truth that we have a right to expect from our political leaders.

It would be hugely damaging for Britain’s international reputation – and for our self-respect – if we were to vote into office a Prime Minister who has repeatedly betrayed the peoples’ trust. The implication of putting a known compulsive liar into Downing Street would be that Britain’s electorate had failed to uphold support for truth in politics, making a nonsense of any claim that we can reclaim our national ‘greatness’.

We must not allow ourselves to be seduced by charm and bonhomie and turn a blind eye to the habitual betrayal of trust by a leading politician in the naïve hope of a change in his behaviour. If we were to do so, we could no longer condemn our politicians for letting us down because we would have become accessories to their misconduct.  The answer is to MAKE IT STOP!  by voting tactically even if it means deserting our pet candidate……

A Poisoned Chalice

A Draft Reply from Jeremy Corbyn to Boris Johnson, dated 25th October 2019

Dear Boris,

Thank you for your long and rambling letter.

In it you are implicitly accepting that your “great” Brexit deal will not get parliamentary approval because it is deeply flawed. You also accept that the prolonged Brexit process is hugely damaging to the country and that we need to bring it to closure. You suggest that the solution is to hold an early general election and you ask me to support this idea.

The Conservative party and you, in particular, have got us into this mess.

  • David Cameron should never have called a national referendum to strengthen his position within his own party but which addressed an issue which, at the time, was of little concern to most British citizens.
  • Driven by your personal ambitions more than by your convictions you ran a campaign in which you combined your oratory and the brain-washing power of social media to convince voters that membership of the European Union was deeply damaging to British sovereignty and our position in the world. To win votes you portrayed an Utopian future for Britain, freed of its European ‘shackles’, deliberately stirring up passions that have left our country, its political parties, communities, families and age groups horrendously divided.
  • Theresa May negotiated a Brexit deal which might have been acceptable to the country but which was killed off largely by members of your Conservative party and the DUP whose support had been bought with public money.
  • You have accentuated the divisions by using the threat of Britain leaving the EU without a deal by the end of this month as a cudgel for getting parliamentary approval for a deal that is worse than May’s failed deal. In spite of your call to ‘take back control’ from Brussels, you are in the absurd situation of condemning the actions of our parliament – the main locus of British sovereignty – and are doing your best to undermine the credibility of MPs who oppose you.

The only way out of this unfortunate situation is to bring the whole Brexit debate to an early close. Neither a general election nor another referendum will resolve the problem. They would simply prolong the agony and deepen the divisions which ultimately will threaten the unity of our Kingdom and the peaceful coexistence of its citizens.

The answer is quite simple but will require the kind of courage and statesmanship that your mentor, Winston Churchill, would have displayed when finding himself cornered.

You must admit that you deliberately misled voters during the 2016 Referendum campaign about the benefits of leaving Europe. You must also admit that, ever since then, the Tory government  has tried to hide from the general public all the knowledge that you and cabinet members have on the extent of damage that your Brexit – on any Brexit – would have on the integrity of the UK ,  the economy, our livelihoods, our capacity to address neglected domestic issues, and our ability to deal with matters that require well-orchestrated actions between neighbouring countries – such as security, climate change, travel, migration, research and, above all, the nurturing of peace in and beyond Europe.

We now have a much better understanding of European institutions than we had in 2016. We know that reforms are needed and we also know that we can better influence the direction of reform from the inside rather than the outside.

The time has arrived for you, I and the leaders of all the political parties to admit in all honesty that there is no possibility of finding an early Brexit solution that is truly good for Britain at this stage. We have all done our best to find a way of responding to the referendum result but have to accept that we have hit the buffers and that the longer we keep searching for an answer that does not exist in reality, the more harm we shall cause.

My response to your letter is, therefore, to propose that we – the leaders of all political parties – meet together as early as possible to agree on a joint strategy for ‘coming clean’ with the British public on the true impacts of Brexit and to announce our  intention to call on parliament to bring the Brexit process to a close by revoking Article 50 before 31st October.

We should also agree in principle on joint arrangements for a way forward that would avoid any early election or further referendum but enable an ambitious programme of domestic reform to move forward quickly and give time to introduce badly needed electoral reforms.

I very much hope that, as Prime Minister, you will convene this proposed meeting and offer the kind of leadership our country now needs – a leadership that places Britain’s needs above personal or party ambitions.

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy

Is Our Prime Minister Trying to Make Us Cut off our Noses to Spite our Faces?

 

The Brexit debate that has literally consumed us for over 3 years is usually portrayed as one between ‘leavers’ and ‘remainers’, and polls suggest that there has been surprisingly little shift between the two camps created by the 2016 EU Referendum.

If there has been a change in attitude, it is the growth of widespread weariness with the debate and all the uncertainty and distress that it has fuelled. Most people from either camp or none would now just like to see the whole shebang brought to a quick end.

There is a big risk that lots of voters could be duped into thinking that the “No-Deal” solution, sought by Johnson and his far-right friends, will bring a welcome end to the Brexit process. Perhaps this misunderstanding is because the very term “No-Deal” has an air of finality.

The reality is that walking off the end of the “No Deal” plank would actually signal the start of a very long period fraught with much greater risk and uncertainty than anything that we have had to endure during these 3 years.  Like an earthquake, “No-Deal” would cause an instantaneous destruction of the institutional fabric which has enabled us to cooperate successfully in so many fields of activity with our neighbours. If you have lived through an earthquake, you will know how extraordinarily difficult and how slow it is to pick up the pieces and resume a normal life.

For a Prime Minister to deliberately trigger such an earthquake while being fully aware of the havoc it would cause is the height of irresponsibility. He seems to want to throw us out of the frying pan into the fire and couldn’t care less about how much hurt it will cause to British citizens.

Any move to suggest to those of us who yearn for normality that “No-Deal” would close the painful Brexit chapter is downright dishonest.

We and our MPs need to face up to the truth – a rare commodity these days – that any form of Brexit, whether “No Deal” or “soft”, would take years to sort out and would leave us in seemingly endless limbo.

The only means through which we can return to a “normal” and reasonably predictable life is to stay in the European Union. This requires no negotiations and comes automatically when requested by our Government as long as it is made while we are still members.

Like all institutions the EU has merits and warts, but on balance it must be quite benign as we have never, during over 40 years of “marriage”, been drawn into a serious dispute about our terms of cohabitation.

Divorces are often triggered by trivia. Should we really allow Boris’ conjured up images of bendy bananas, frozen kippers and overpaid bureaucrats in Brussels to provide a valid motive for slamming the door in the face of our neighbours? Is there any logic for withdrawing from the best free trade deal in the world or for walking away from well-tested agreements on dealing with shared problems – food safety, animal health, medicines, human disease control and prevention, safe travel, mobile phone costs, international crime, security and so on?

We pride ourselves over our nation’s great achievements but need to admit that our success has always come from our ability to forge alliances with other nations. Our engagement with our former enemies in the European project and the trust that this has nurtured, has allowed my wife and me to enjoy over 70 years of peace. Our parents lived through two horrific wars of European origin. We now fear that, if our country ceases to be responsibly engaged in Europe, this would increase the risk that our children and grandchildren could find themselves – probably for trivial motives – drawn into fresh international conflicts.

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Distressed Jeans and the Fabrication of Institutional Contempt

 

I wear blue jeans almost every day. Being a gardener, spending a lot of time weeding my vegetable patch, my jeans get worn out at the knees within a year or so and I replace them with an intact and robust pair that will protect my tender skin.  Instead of demoting the old ones to become cleaning rags, perhaps I should sell them for a fortune on e-bay as rare genuinely work-distressed garments.

There is now a huge market for manufactured distressed clothes, created by carefully calibrated machines and artisans that make new clothes look old or damaged – with precisely-placed rips on the thighs or buttocks of jeans, bullet holes through t-shirts, or jacket collars that look as though they have been nibbled by a rat. While some people distress their own brand-new clothes, many are happy to shell out even hundreds of pounds to buy pre-damaged garments sold by the big brands of the fashion industry.

A few days ago, I asked a 15-year old boy why he distresses his jeans. He thought for a while before saying that he supposed that it was because it was “fashionable” and because his friends did it. One commentator claims that people do it to “foster the illusion of work”, while another writer goes as far as saying that pre-ripped garments provide “a costume for wealthy people who see work as ironic”. I see it as a deliberately visible but fairly harmless way of signalling personal dissatisfaction with the norms that society imposes on our daily lives. Like purposefully dishevelling one’s hair, it is a means of asserting one’s non-conformity and claiming that one deserves special attention.

The problem arises when such non-conformity, rather than being allowed to remain a symbol of individual idiosyncrasy, is nurtured and fanned into a collective disrespect towards the institutions, laws, conventions and norms that have grown up over many years to foster a sense of common decency and mutual respect, to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals and especially minorities, to prevent crime, and to foster truthfulness and trustworthiness.

One of the most curious aspects of the present crisis facing Britain is that we have never had any serious dispute with the European Union since we joined on New Tear’s Day 1973. I suspect that it is also true that very few UK citizens can point to specific cases in which their own lives have been blighted by EU regulations. Yet, in a few months in 2016, a majority of voters was persuaded through a skilfully orchestrated campaign, backed by the massive use of social media, to call for us to leave the Union. “Take back control” and “regain sovereignty” became powerful rallying calls, even though there no evidence was put forward by the advocates of Brexit to show that we had lost any control or forfeited significant elements of sovereignty.

Lots of voters were – and continue to be – rightly disaffected by their lack of self-advancement and were easily persuaded to blame this on “the bureaucrats in Brussels” and the influx of European migrants.

We are now in the contradictory situation of having a prime minister who, having called on us to uphold British sovereignty, seems to be intent undermining – or simply avoiding – scrutiny by parliament (the locus of British sovereignty) of his immensely damaging proposals for leaving the European Union without a deal.

What is evident is that. in this age of distressed jeans, it is much easier to drum up popular antipathy towards the public institutions – whether international or national – that shape our lives rather than to persuade people to acknowledge and defend their generally benign impacts.

The greatest danger now facing our country is that our new prime minister, driven less by his beliefs – if he has any – than by his personal ambitions, will knowingly lead us (and our children and grand-children) into a deeply self-harming future. The most obvious sign that this is his intention is that, having happily approved the use of billions of taxpayers’ pounds to finance ‘no-deal planning’, he has appears not to have given the slightest thought to the nature of the long-term relationship that he would like to see with our European neighbours. Without such a vision, he is bereft of any basis for successfully negotiating any deal with the EU.

For the past 3 years the Conservatives have failed to make a convincing response to the result of the 2016 referendum. If only by prolonging uncertainty, this failure has already done immense economic harm to our country: it has undermined the respect that other nations hold for us; it has fostered deep divisions between people who have happily coexisted in the past, and it has put at risk the integrity of the United Kingdom.

We are now engulfed in a national crisis of unprecedented proportions which has been created by the present government and from which it is patently incapable of extracting us. It lies within the reach of MPs who are opposed to a no-deal Brexit to defeat the government in a no confidence vote that would sooner or later lead to either a general election or a referendum.

The opposition has also wasted the last 3 years through its indecisiveness and its failure to engage in a well-orchestrated campaign to convince voters of the real benefits of staying in Europe. There is an urgent need to talk with them frankly of the dangers associated with any Brexit but especially with a ‘no deal’ outcome and to argue that it makes common sense to continue with the status quo at least until there might be a genuine breakdown in our relations with other EU nations rather than a fabricated dispute.

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March for Change – 6 Simple Thoughts for the Day

 

Please print this and share with others

March for Change

20th July 2019

6 Simple Thoughts for the Day

 

  1. Has Britain ever had a big dispute with the EU since it joined over 40 years ago?

NO – So why stir up discontent?

 

  1. Can you point to any way in which your own life has actually been damaged by our EU membership?

If not, what is to be gained by you and your own family from getting out of the EU?

 

  1. The Single Market provides for the easiest possible trading between 28 neighbouring countries. Can you think of any good reason to pull out of it?

 

  1. We are geographically part of Europe and share many problems and opportunities with our neighbours. So, doesn’t it make sense to work together to solve them? Think about preventing the spread of diseases, safe travel, scientific research, security and crime control, food safety, environmental management, climate change – you name it…..

 

  1. Our parents lived through two horrendous wars of European origin and lost many of their friends and relations. We have enjoyed a long life in peace largely because the EU nurtures trust and confidence between its members. Don’t you think that, by leaving the EU, Britain raises the risk that our children and grandchildren end up fighting?

 

  1. The Brexit process has already mucked things up for 3 divisive years. Any Brexit or a No Deal will prolong the agony and uncertainty for years to come. If we decide to stay in Europe, there will be no need for more negotiations and we can return now to our normal – friendly – ways.

 

 

Boris got us into this mess, driven by his ambition.

 

He’s not the person to get us out of it.

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